Key to Umbria: Montefalco

Walls of Montefalco

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Detail of a fresco (1452) by Benozzo Gozzoli of

St Francis blessing Montefalco

Apse, San Francesco

12th Century Walls

The first walls of Montefalco were probably built in the 12th century and were first documented in 1216: Five roads from Piazza del Comune, which was at centre of the settlement, led five gates, each of which had an associated parish church:

  1. Porta San Bartolomeo (Porta Federico II), documented in 1233, behind the parish church of San Bartolomeo;

  2. Porta di Camiano, documented in 1288, which stood next to the parish church church of Santa Maria di Turri (demolished in 1864) and named for the village some 2km from Montefalco;

  3. Porta di San Clemente (Porta di Colle Mora), documented in 1227, which stood near the site of the church of San Giovanni di Colle Mora (a church that was already in ruins in the 17th century and subsequently demolished);

  4. Porta San Lorenzo, named for the church of San Lorenzo, now Santa Maria delle Grazie; and

  5. Portone di Santa Maria, named for Santa Maria idel Popolo.

Porta San Bartolomeo (1244)

As noted above, the original Porta San Bartolomeo was first documented in 1233, although it was certainly built in the previous century.  The inscription above the present gate reads:

I(n) N(omine) Domini) A(men) H(oc) OP(us) E(st) AC(tum) Anno) Domini) M.CC.XLIIII / IUS(S) U Domini) LEOPARDI/ POT(estatis) COR(onii) / PO(r)TA/../

ANG(elus) P(etri) /ME/ FE(cit).                                                                          

This records that the Podestà Leopardi commissioned the gate in 1244 from the mason, Angelus Petrus.  This plaque also contains reliefs of the imperial eagle and the Swabian cross, which suggests that Leopardi was an imperial appointment.  

Madonna and Child (15th century)

This fresco fragment from Porta San Bartolomeo was transferred to the high altar of San Bartolomeo in the 18th century.

Porta Camiano (1225-32) 


The present gate replaced the original one in the 12th century walls when the new circuit was built around the Borgo di Colle Mora.  The terracotta arms of Montefalco above the arch are the oldest to survive in the city. 

13th Century Walls

Documents of 1225 and 1232 speak of two circuits of walls, which indicates that the town had rapidly out-grown the original circuit.  These walls were probably badly damaged when soldiers of the Emperor Frederick II sacked Montefalco in 1249.

The arrival of the mendicant orders stimulated the development of suburbs:

  1. The Augustinians settled at Santa Maria del Popolo, outside Portone di Santa Maria, in 1257, which promoted the settlement of what became known as Borgo del Castellare.

  2. The Franciscans began to build a new church and convent outside Porta San Clemente before 1275 and settled there before 1306 (see below).  This promoted the settlement of what became known as Borgo di Colle Mora.

Borgo del Castellare

Duke Jean d’ Amiel of Spoleto (1323-33) commissioned a new circuit of walls in 1328.   This included Borgo del Castellare, which now extended from the Portone di Santa Maria to the new Porta di Sant’ Agostino.  These walls are illustrated in the fresco detail at the top of the page.

Porta Sant’ Agostino (1328)


Jean d’ Amiel, the Rector of the Duchy of Spoleto built the gate and added the defensive tower above, perhaps using the architect Lorenzo Maitani

This was part of the new circuit of walls that was built at this time, which included the Torre del Verziere (to the left as you look from outside the walls).

This fresco (14th century) of the Maestà is under the arch above the opening on the inside of the gate.  It depicts the Madonna and Child enthroned with saints.

Borgo di Colle Mora


                 Site of the fortified Palazzo Nuovo and of                   Mound of the demolished palace,

                             Porta della Rocca behind it                              below the site of  Porta della Rocca

In 1335, Montefalco briefly joined the Ghibelline rebellion led by Pier Saccone Tarlati di Pietramala.  In the following year, the Franciscans complained to Pope John XXII that Porta San Clemente had been closed for some three months during this period.  They therefore sought his help in finding a more secure and convenient site within the walls on which they could build a new church and convent.  The papal legate therefore arranged to purchase their old convent so that they could build the present church and convent of San Francesco in Borgo di Colle Mora.

Palazzo Nuovo and Porta della Rocca

The site of the old Franciscan convent was used for a fortified palace that became known as Palazzo Nuovo (to distinguish it from Palazzo Vecchio, next to San Fortunato).  The project brought the Borgo di Colle Mora within the town walls, which now had a new double gate, Porta  della Rocca.  Palazzo Nuovo was subsequently occupied by the Trinci Lords and destroyed by the populace when the Trinci fell from power in 1439.

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